Number of Cruises: NOT
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: April 18,
Itinerary: Ft Lauderdale to San Diego
Panama Canal . April 18th - May 3rd.
Fort Lauderdale to San Diego, California
This is our fifth voyage with Holland America, other trips having been taken in Noordam (2) Westerdam, and Volendam.
We flew from home to Miami, and took the Super Shuttle to Fort Lauderdale, where we stayed overnight.
On sailing day, we arrived at the terminal at 12.30, and were in our cabin No.578, on the Main Deck, by 1.30. The cabin was quite spacious, with a large square window, twin beds made up into a king-size, plenty of closet and drawer space, including lots of good hangers!
The bathroom, with a tub and shower, was larger than most. It was equipped with the usual array of lotions, soaps, shampoos, etc.
The usual signature items of a basket of fruit, replenished daily, and the chocolate on the pillow at night, were in place as usual.
Our cabin steward, Praz, is Indonesian, and did a good job unobtrusively, bringing us fresh ice each day at 4.p.m. for our drinks. We are in the habit of having a drink in our cabin before dinner, and Holland America seems to encourage this, with a duty free shop in the terminal, and supplies of soft drinks in the cabin, albeit at a healthy price of $1.75 per can. Many cruise lines actually forbid passengers to bring liquor into their cabins, presumably afraid they may lose some profits at the bar!
Prior to sailing time, the Lido restaurant is open, so that passengers who have travelled that day without having lunch, can fight off the pangs of hunger till dinnertime.
Normally, a band plays on the quarterdeck during sailaway time, but on this day, we were delayed about half an hour, owing to some passengers being delayed on flights (No, not Air Canada this time).
Following Tom Milano's advice, we checked our dining room table arrangements on arrival. They were as requested, lower deck, central, at a table for eight.
Now Ryndam's dining room is something special. It is on two decks, with a curving staircase leading to the lower level.The upper level has tables around the gallery, and by the huge windows. Music is played during dinner by a pianist, or by a string group.
The ceiling consists of myriad inverted flowers in glass, all illuminated, with some other areas like starlight. The decor constantly changed according to the evening's theme. Some nights the chairs were draped in white damask, and the tablecloths different colours, even in black for one evening. The waiters uniforms changed also, and our waiter, Joko, an Indonesian, had ten different uniforms for this cruise.
As usual, the china and silverware at the table were elegant, as was the service. Ordering a Dover sole one evening, I had it expertly de-boned at the table, by Joko.
Another pleasant feature is that if we do not finish a bottle of wine one evening, they are quite happy to remove it and trot it out the next evening!
The menu was well up to standard, with such goodies as lobster tails, rack of lamb, beef Wellington, Chateaubriand, etc.
The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch also, with open seating, although
many passengers choose to eat those meals at the Lido restaurant, on Deck 11.
This is cafeteria style, with plenty of salads,cold meats and fish (Always lots of smoked salmon with Holland America) and a good selection of hot dishes also. If you choose the hot dishes, there is some risk that you won't be able to do full justice to dinner.
In addition to the main cafeteria line, there are various little stands serving specific items like tacos, or hot dogs and hamburgers (Oh,really!) Ice cream, desserts, and the ever popular bread pudding with vanilla sauce, with recipe on demand..
Coffee and tea are available anytime. Afternoon tea, with pastries and small sandwiches is served in the Explorer's lounge, with a string quartet, The Champagne Strings, from Budapest.
All varieties of coffee are dispensed in the Java bar, by little Haydee from the Phillipines.The Explorer's lounge also serves hot hors d'oeuvres with drinks at cocktail time. Late in the evening they serve special coffee, with exotic chocolates, also accompanied by more gypsy music.
And now for something completely different. The officers on most Holland America
ships are mainly Dutch.
However, in Ryndam, The Captain, Jonathan Mercer, is English, The Hotel Manager, David Quibell is English, The Chief Engineer, Tom Mahon, is English, and the Executive chef, John Mulvaney, is Scottish.
With a crew like this maybe they could rechristen the ship "Britanniadam" and fly the Red Ensign!
The decor in Ryndam is stunning. There are masses of fresh flowers everywhere, taken care of by an on-board florist who does the arrangements, brings up more flowers from the cold room as necessary, and also brings fresh flowers aboard from various ports of call.
The central atrium extending over three decks, consists of a stone boat at its base, with fountains, stretching upward into a "Boy on a dolphin" effect.
The Show lounge is done in a motif of Chinese lanterns. With marble floors on the
staircases and entries.
In the explorer's lounge, there is a huge mural of Dutch fishing boats. Many other paintings are spread around the various lounges and stairways. On the subject of stairways, Ryndam has a very useful escalator from Main Deck to lower promenade, which is where passengers can walk the whole way round the ship, and those tired of walking can relax on a long chair with cushions to read or just watch the waves go by, and perhaps snooze a little.
We much preferred Ryndam's decor to the more garish colours found in Volendam, and some other newer ships.
Our favourite bar in the evenings is the Ocean Bar, staffed by Arlene and Ronald, where a Filipino trio plays for dancing. The young lady at the piano also has a keyboard for special effects, and she joins the drummer and guitarist in vocals.
This is the bar for dancers, and it attracts a regular clientele who like the waltzes, rumbas, tangos, cha-chas, etc.
This is also the home of the four "Gentleman Dance Hosts" a quartet of well-dressed gents whose duty it is to see that no single lady goes undanced!
This is a great feature, and gives a lot of pleasure to ladies travelling alone, or without male company. Some of them dance well, and some do not, but the Hosts take it all ,literally, in their stride.
On regular evenings, they wear blazers and white slacks, and on formal evenings, black or white tuxedoes. They are held to a strict code of conduct, they may not drink, may not sit at the bar, may not dance twice in a row with one lady.
On this trip I happened to have two ladies with me, and much appreciated their help in keeping everyone dancing!
In these bars, the staff are always so pleasant. Arlene and Ronald soon learn the names of their regular clients, and it seems to be an Indonesian habit for them to make little gifts for their regulars.
More about the staff. These Indonesian and Filipino boys and girls are always so charming, full of smiles and friendly greetings. We know this is not motivated by profit, because they are the same with each other.
Some of the social features in Ryndam were new to us. For instance, the celebrity chats; If there was a comedian or singer performing in the evening shows, on the next morning they would show up in the Explorer's Lounge to chat with passengers about their work and career. This proved to be a popular feature.
Also new was a Vienna Coffee Dansant.3.15pm. Coffee and pastries were served, and the dance hosts were there to provide partners while the ship's band played for dancing.
The Black and White Ball was a great feature, at 10.15 one evening. All ship's officers were present in evening dress whites,and the ship's band played for dancing. It was guest choice, so no officer was permitted to refuse a request to dance. Passengers were encouraged to dress in Black and White also.
The piano Bar was an intimate little place, with a group of regulars who would
sit round the piano. Gerry played and sang all their requests. We found it a little too dark for our
taste, but it was well patronized.
And Now, the Crow's Nest. In daytime, a pleasant place for good views all round.
At night, in spite of a good dance floor, and a competent duo on keyboards and guitar, nobody went there ! One reason was certainly that it was too cold, but it just did'nt attract any kind of audience at all.
Entertainment. This is not Holland America's strong point. The singers and dancers work hard, particularly when the ship is rolling a bit, and the House band is okay, but the individual "stars" each evening are fairly forgettable. One evening we had a Juggler! Not bad for a supporting act, but not to head the whole evenings show, I think.
The age group in Ryndam is high, as usual with Holland America. Probably the majority is in the 60-80 age group. A fiftieth wedding anniversary on this line is not worth a mention, there were two couples at our table celebrating sixty years married!
It seems the number of male guests wearing tuxedoes continues to decrease. I think about 10 to 15% of men wore them on Ryndam.
I am sure many passengers would like to try other cruise lines, but the level of service in these ships makes it difficult to tear oneself away from Holland America.